Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins, is stepping down after ten years on the job “pretty much right away,” a source close to her said. Brian Murray, who has been serving as HarperCollins group president for about four years, will replace her at the helm of the News Corp-owned publishing house “in the next few days.”
According to our source, Ms. Friedman made the decision to leave her post on her own, and had been involved in planning a transition for some time, though a post that appeared tonight on Gawker.com cited a rumor saying she had been fired. The publication of that rumor has apparently moved Ms. Friedman and News Corp to bump up their official announcement, which is said to be forthcoming.
At least two of the publishing division heads at HarperCollins were taken by surprise when news of Ms. Friedman’s imminent departure leaked out tonight; both indicated that they had no advance warning that this was coming.
At a Book Expo party Saturday night on the 20th Century Fox lot, Ms. Friedman pulled a reporter aside and exclaimed, “I love being CEO of HarperCollins! Write that down.” Unclear as of now why she would say such a thing if she knew that her departure was coming, but according to our source, she had already made her decision to leave the company though the exact timing had not yet been set.
Mr. Murray, who did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, has been with HarperCollins about as long as Ms. Friedman has. For the past three years, he has been overseeing the company’s books operation in the U.S., Canada, China, and Australia/New Zealand. He was initially brought over in 1997 from a consulting firm that worked with publishers, and made managing director of the US books group. In 2001 he became CEO of the Australia/New Zealand group before ascending, three years later, to his current post as Ms. Friedman’s number two.
Ms. Friedman will be the second publishing CEO to resign in the span of a few weeks: Peter Olson, who was the head of Random House for 10 years, announced last month his intention to step down to pursue a career in academia and was succeeded this week by a 39-year-old printing executive named Markus Dohle.